Today I wanted to talk about a topic I care very much about, in the hopes that some people may read it and at least see my perspective on the debate that is poetry snobbery. We all stumble across poetry at some point, whether its in a greetings card or in our high school English classes, but we don’t all enjoy it. That is cool! You don’t have to like everything. And if you do like poetry, I am by no means saying that you should love all poetry. If this was the case, I would be negating my entire degree which fully depends on people having different literary opinions. However, today I wanted to talk about how some people who consider themselves to be avid readers of poetry, shit talk certain poets they don’t consider to be poets at all, just because they present their work on social media or use more simplistic forms of verse. That really isn’t the case, and upon seeing a trailer for Ariel Bisset’s upcoming documentary ‘Can Instagram Make Poetry Cool Again?‘, I felt compelled to have my say.
Its pretty much universally recognised that this whole discussion began with Rupi Kaur. On this subject, I have mixed opinions. A few years ago, when I first began writing poetry myself, I discovered Rupi Kaur on Instagram and followed immediately, feeling inspired to see someone of similar age and in a similar situation to myself, posting their poetry so publicly online. I liked the way she documented women’s experiences through verse that anyone could interpret and digest.
Years later, the more I began reading a wider variety of literature from different poets, particularly from other periods of history and social contexts, the more I realised how much was out there. I started looking for more technique, more varied form, more adventurous language. I began to think Kaur plays it a bit safe, particularly now she has established fame and fortune as a best-selling poet and performer. I’ll be the first to admit that I started to get annoyed by the simplicity of some things she was producing on the regular, or stuff that was too similar to previous work. As well as this qualm, I also read a few things online about the extent of her intersectional appeal and the way she seems to collect all women’s experiences together as one whole, which she may claim to be a voice for.
Many have mocked her poetry style online too,
However (jokes aside), despite some of the bitter mockery (possibly manifested jealously) and liking other poets much more than her, I can appreciate what she does and see why other people appreciate her too. Not only from a business point of view, but because of how accessible she makes her poetry to the masses. Not everyone spends years studying literary form and can analyse a poem thats all metaphors and riddles and allegory. Yes, those things are wonderful and very well respected in the literary sphere. But they also keep the practice of poetry exclusive to the sphere, leaving those without that analytical ability with no clue as to whats going on. Ultimately, this means no access to the inner circle- that is the enjoyment of ‘real poetry’. This is one of the reasons that there are fewer established writers from the working class. Poetry shouldn’t be an exclusive club that only the highly educated can enter, and no matter what you think of her, Rupi Kaur builds a little doorway into a land of many more amazing words that people may never otherwise discover if they think 16th century poetry is the only thing available to them.
The message intended here, in case you hadn’t gathered, is that I despise snobbery when it comes to poetry. I feel the same about fiction too, but its a little more complex in comparison to this issue. To come to sort of conclusion, I think this is partially a reflection of another issue, the unceasing hatred of social media being used as a career benefactor. People don’t like the fact that people are making money out of social media, but it is quite possibly one of the smartest ways to do so. Its essentially free marketing. Why wouldn’t you make use of a completely free platform to expand your product, whether that be hair care products or poetry?
I’ve come to realise, as I get older and less concerned with what people think, that to judge a certain practice is to judge everyone who chooses to enjoy it too, and that isn’t right. There’s a difference between literary criticism and outright dismissal of every genre you don’t get on with. Through social media sharing, everyone and anyone receives a reaching hand. All classes, any age, every gender. The disadvantaged, the marginalised. By sharing poetry and art and essays online, all previously reserved for the educated or the elite, people can find love for literature that they may have never discovered. Let the people enjoy what they enjoy and stop telling them that they can’t like poets because they are too simple, or not a real poet because they don’t write in sonnets or haikus.
Poetry is what you make it. Poetry is for everyone.